East Coast ports brace for Hurricane Florence

waves crashing land from coastal storm

BDP International is closely monitoring the status of Hurricane Florence and its potential impact on our customers' supply chains. Should you have any immediate questions or concerns about your cargo, please reach out to your local BDP representative. We will share updates and alerts, as necessary. 

Sign up for our newsletter to have updates sent directly to your inbox

September 12, 2018 - Beach communities in North and South Carolina emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the southeastern states in decades.

"This could be the first category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the Carolinas since Hurricane Hugo [in 1989]," said Governor McMaster in a televised briefing impressing upon South Carolinians to obey mandatory evacuation orders on Monday. 

Florence had maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (215 km per hour) and was on a trajectory that showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina by Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Updated NHC forecasts showed the storm lingering near the coast, bringing days of heavy rains that could bring intense inland flooding from South Carolina, where some areas could see as much as 40 inches (1m) of rain, to Virginia.

More than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools, and factories were being shuttered.

The NHC said the first tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph) would hit the region early on Thursday with the storm’s center reaching the coast Friday. At 8 a.m. (1200 GMT) on Wednesday the storm was located about 530 miles (855 km) southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Ports stayed open extra hours to move product out, especially a concern in South Carolina where major arteries will become one-way away from the coast starting at noon Sept. 12, and roadways will become clogged as the evacuation order goes into effect. "There's no way we’re sending truckloads on back roads," he said. 

Though not all of these affected ports have made formal announcements, Bartmann said to expect them to close beginning Tuesday evening until at least Friday, but most likely Monday. His largest concern is that the storm will swing North and douse the Port of Norfolk and even the Port of Baltimore. 

"Norfolk could be affected harder because if the storm moves north, then there could be an enormous amount of rainfall similar to Harvey," said Bartmann.  

These East Coast ports have grown in significance in recent years — the Port of Charleston had the highest monthly container volume in its history on Monday, handling 177,728 TEUs.  

Though September is usually peak season, reports indicate shippers brought in their major shipments early to avoid tariffs. Still, should Florence reach a category five as some say it will, it could be much more disruptive to U.S. supply chains than Hugo. 

Sources: Supply Chain Dive, Reuters